The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has warned that greater enforcement of the Wildlife Acts will be a feature of the State body’s activities in the future.

The NPWS initiated 43 prosecutions for alleged breaches of wildlife legislation in 2023.

This represents a 39% increase in prosecutions compared to 2022 when 30 alleged breaches of the Wildlife Acts were submitted by NPWS staff to the Chief States Solicitor’s Office.

According to data from the new Wildlife Enforcement and Nature Protection Directorate within the NPWS, the crimes included the disturbance of bats, illegal hunting - such as hare lurching and badger digging - damage to Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), unlawful destruction of vegetation in hedgerows and unlawful burning of vegetation within the restricted period.

The NPWS pointed that 112 prosecutions were successfully closed from 2020 to date.

“NPWS staff work throughout the country to address wildlife crime and enforcement. This issue is being taken very seriously by the State, as we have seen through increasing fines and convictions.

"Legislation and regulations help to protect our biodiversity, health and our future, and we must all adhere to them,” said Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan.

Citizen reporting

Minister Noonan urged the public to report suspected breaches of the Wildlife Act to the NPWS or An Garda Siochána.

“Citizen reporting is an essential element in safeguarding nature and helping to prevent wildlife crime. I would call on anyone who witnesses wildlife crime to get in touch with the NPWS or An Garda Siochána,” he said.

The 112 prosecutions successfully closed by NPWS since 2020 have seen numerous convictions and record fines imposed on the defendants for offences against nature.

Niall Ó Donnchú, director general of the NPWS, said the State body aims to beef up enforcement of the Wildlife Acts.

“NPWS’s work in detecting, preventing and enforcing wildlife crime is being strengthened through the recruitment of additional NPWS staff on the ground, along with training and other support for staff involved in this work and by enhanced co-operation with other enforcement authorities,” Ó Donnchú said.

“A joint protocol between the NPWS and An Garda Síochána has been in place since 2021, with ongoing strategic liaison on particular issues and development of training and knowledge and information sharing events,” he pointed out.